Something for something, a favor for a favor – quid pro quo. It’s the bane of honest government.
For many years the people of Pennsylvania have been suffering at the hands of this pervasive practice. Politicians sell their votes in worship of it. Policy is made on the altar of its existence. Government corruption thrives in its wake. Political quid pro quo, the art of granting favors in return for campaign donations.
The most egregious example of bad policy and even worse legislation based on QPQ is the legalization of gambling in Pennsylvania, sold to voters on the concept of property tax “relief” but with an entirely different hidden agenda. See the chart below from a study by Pennsylvania Common Cause that summarizes campaign donations from gambling-related interests during the years 2001-2008. The complete Common Cause study is here.
The strongest proponent for legalized gambling was Governor Ed Rendell, who was given more than $1 million by gambling interests – he is by far the greatest beneficiary of gambling industry largess. Numbers two and three on the list are former Senator Vince Fumo and Representative John Perzel, both prime architects of the gambling law. Do you suppose those campaign contributions had anything to do with their zeal to legalize gambling?
Now look at number eight on the list. Of that $85,000+ accepted by gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett, $55,000 came from a single contributor, Louis DeNaples. Mr. DeNaples is the owner of the Mount Airy Casino and a convicted felon with alleged mob ties, but that didn’t seem to bother Mr. Corbett in the least as he accepted the donations.
Mr. DeNaples donated to Mr. Corbett under the name of D&L Realty, a real estate firm owned by Mr. DeNaples. You can verify these donations with a visit to the Pennsylvania Campaign Finance website here.
What effect do you suppose those donations to Tom Corbett will have on policy if he becomes Governor and QPQ from the gambling industry rears its head?
In December 2007 Mr. Corbett accepted a fundraiser from the chief of staff for now-indicted former House Speaker John Perzel while Mr. Perzel was actively under investigation by the Attorney General’s office. While there may not be eventual QPQ for this event, Mr. Corbett’s acceptance while investigating Mr. Perzel was certainly inappropriate and a possible conflict of interest. But, hey, it was more campaign money, so why not? Details of the story are here.
Those were interesting, so let’s dig a little deeper for possible QPQ for Mr. Corbett. I just spent three days researching the PA Campaign Finance website and while it was tedious work it yielded some very interesting information.
Between 2001 and today Mr. Corbett accepted $38,800 from the PSEA, the powerful state teachers’ union. Will QPQ for this money affect Mr. Corbett’s policies on education funding, the eventual resolution of the 2012 pension spike, school property tax reform (or the lack of it) and other education-related matters?
Other union contributors included AFSCME (municipal employees), IUPAT (construction), Local 98, IBEW (construction), and Carpenters’ PAC. The total contribution from these groups was almost $150,000. I suppose that helps to explain why Mr. Corbett was “undecided” in the Commonwealth Foundation’s gubernatorial candidate survey about supporting a right-to-work law and the repeal of prevailing wage laws. Changes such as these could significantly help Pennsylvania’s business climate and could save millions of dollars in infrastructure construction projects, but…
By far the largest contributors were energy and mining companies, where the total contributions were well over one million dollars. The whopper in this category was $360,000 from Kim Pegula of Boca Raton, Florida, who registered as a homemaker and is the wife of Terry Pegula, President and CEO of East Resources Inc., a Warrendale-based gas exploration company. Marcellus shale gas extraction is going to be a huge industry in Pennsylvania in the coming years and will require enlightened and carefully crafted business, regulatory, and environmental policies. How will these huge contributions affect Mr. Corbett’s ability to fairly and objectively devise and administer these policies for a vitally important Pennsylvania industry?
Also high on the contributor list were attorneys, many of whom are trial lawyers, whose contributions totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This group can be very influential in policy making and has been known to lobby heavily for or against pending legislation.
Other $100,000+ groups included infrastructure engineering businesses, insurance companies, and capital management firms. All of these categories have a vested interest in the way business is conducted in Pennsylvania and are ripe for QPQ.
And finally, there’s a comparatively small contribution that I found interesting: Mr. Corbett’s acceptance of $26,000 from the Waste Management PAC. Waste Management is Mr. Corbett’s former employer and is engaged in the business of, among other things, hauling sewage sludge from neighboring states to Pennsylvania. I’ll have more about Mr. Corbett’s relationship to sewage sludge in an upcoming post that you’ll find very interesting.
In the end, it all comes down to whether Mr. Corbett’s administration, if he is elected, will be influenced by these immense contributions. Quid pro quo in the form of pay-to-play, no-bid contracts, and legislative and executive policy has been the rule in Pennsylvania politics rather than the exception. There’s really no reason to expect that it will be any different in the future as long as candidates are willing to accept massive campaign donations from special interests like these.
In these perilous economic times I, for one, am unwilling to risk the interests and well-being of the people of Pennsylvania on a candidate who can possibly be tainted by the rivers of special interest money flowing into his campaign coffers. Are you willing to take that risk? If not, choose wisely when you vote in the May 18 Republican primary election.